Open Source

Adios Microsoft: We're ditching Office and Outlook for open source, says Barcelona

The city council plans to continue using Windows in the short-term, but for "all desktop applications to be open-source", including office suites, web browsers and email clients.

The Spanish city of Barcelona is to drop Microsoft Office and Outlook in favor of using open-source equivalents.

The city council plans to continue using Windows in the short-term, but for "all desktop applications to be open-source", including office suites, web browsers and email clients.

The city's commissioner for Technology, and Digital Innovation, Francesca Bria, said use of Microsoft products would be "progressively reduced by the end of this municipal term of office".

Instead of using Microsoft Outlook to handle calendar and email, the city will switch to the German open-source alternative Open-Xchange. The authority is still deciding on which other free software it will use.

SEE: How a Linux stronghold turned back to Windows: Key dates in Munich's LiMux project

Eventually Barcelona plans to move away from Windows as well, in favor of a Linux-based operating system such as Ubuntu, which is already being trialled on 1,000 computers within the municipality.

The city will also favor SMEs when awarding technological contracts, as well employing 65 new IT specialists who will help it manage more technology programs in-house.

In a public announcement, Barcelona talks about guaranteeing its public sovereignty, and to that end, Barcelona is the first authority to sign an open letter from the Free Software Foundation Europe's (FSFE) Public Money, Public Code initiative, whose mission is to ensure that publicly funded software is released under a free and open software licence.

The Spanish publication El Pais reports the council is aiming to spend 70% of its software budget on non-proprietary software by Spring 2019.

Don't miss: Munich: The journey from Windows to Linux and back again (free PDF)

"In order to establish trustworthy systems, public bodies must ensure they have full control over the software and the computer systems at the core of our state digital infrastructure," said Matthias Kirschner, president of the FSFE.

"By taking that step, Barcelona can become one of the leading public administrations when it comes to government IT."

Barcelona's move comes on the heels of a decision by open-source pioneer Munich to turn its back on open-source software after more than a decade.

For years Munich's LiMux project was the go-to example of a successful migration to open-source software, proof that a major organization could successfully turn its back on Windows.

As part of the project, more than 15,000 PCs at the city council in the German city of Munich were migrated to a custom Linux-based OS and other open-source software, saving millions of Euros on licensing and hardware costs.

But as time wore on, reports of problems emerged, with complaints about the time it took to update and fix software. Despite indications these issues largely stemmed from disorganization within the city's IT departments, as the city's political make-up changed, including the election of a new mayor in 2014, so pressure grew to return to Windows. After much discussion, in November last year the council backed moves to replace LiMux, a custom version of the Ubuntu OS, with Windows 10 by 2023.

Despite Munich's decision, there are numerous examples of authorities across Europe that are switching to or sticking with free software.

Most notable is perhaps the French Gendarmerie, the country's police force, which has switched 70,000 PCs to Gendbuntu, a custom version of the Linux-based OS Ubuntu. In the same country 15 French ministries have made the switch to using LibreOffice, as has the Dutch Ministry of Defence, while the Italian Ministry of Defence will switch more than 100,000 desktops from Microsoft Office to LibreOffice by 2020 and 25,000 PCs at hospitals in Copenhagen will move from Office to LibreOffice.

The city of Barcelona has said it wants to reclaim its "technical sovereignty".

Image: Roland Nagy

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About Nick Heath

Nick Heath is chief reporter for TechRepublic. He writes about the technology that IT decision makers need to know about, and the latest happenings in the European tech scene.

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